I know what you're thinking...
Didn't he JUST reject me? I know because I was thinking the same thing when he called me up the next day. I ignored him that time but he's a persistent one because he called again that night and the next day until I finally answered. "Just meet me at the gardens okay?" he said.
Curious and hoping to salvage the threads of our budding relationship, I did as he asked and was waiting for him at the gardens. As the time he said to meet him came and went, I was sure I'd just been rejected again and could feel tears in my eyes already. I turned to run from the place and there he was, with a small, apologetic smile on his face. "Don't cry, sorry I'm late..." he glanced at his watch. Before I could turn away from him, he closed the gap between us and captured me in his arms.
And he kissed me! He was shy about it at first and I didn't expect it until his lips were on mine. "There now, that's better than a first kiss in the bathroom isn't it?" he said with wink.
"So that's why...?" I stammered, still trying to regain coherent thoughts.
"I didn't mean to upset you Cin, you have to believe that. I figured we'd go sit on the couch and watch a movie...but you ran off..." Val said, holding my hands firmly.
"Oh...okay..." I replied lamely. I knew I was an idiot sometimes...
After that we started dating "officially" but things weren't much different than before. We hung out, we gardened together, we talked.
I told him everything about where I was from and how much I missed Ma and Pa - but not so much "home". Sugar Valley was becoming my home now and I wasn't sure I could return to the colorless existence - even if we had an inkling as to how to get there.
Val told me about his own family and home back in Nectar Hills. The way he talked about the dozens of grape varieties made me want to uproot my feeble garden and start fresh with grapes, grapes and more grapes. "So you came here to find a wife?" I asked, looking at my feet. Of course I'd thought of marriage and kids - I was a romantic like that...
"Mmhmm," Val said, without much comment.
Aside from the normal stuff, there was one difference from how things used to be and how things were now that we were dating...the kissing.
We kissed everywhere...all the time. As if I didn't get enough looks because of my color - or LACK of color as the case may be. Val and I together was like a sideshow act at a circus. But we didn't let it bother us and no one made any direct comments to us.
In time I had confided in Ella about my relationship with Val. She'd met him of course but at the time we'd just been friends. It wasn't long before she confessed to similar news - apparently she'd met her own McWine in the chilly night air.
Months of happiness past and I was beginning to imagine that blessed moment when Val would propose. I constructed quite a scene in my head involving flowers of every size and shape and music coming from some unknown source.
But my little dream didn't materialize.
Finally, tired of waiting on Val, I decided I could have my dream all on my own - slightly modified to fit my non-existent budget. I reassured myself with a veiled conversation with Jag about Val's intentions - he assured me that Val wanted all the same things I did so I went ahead with my arrangements.
"Let's go over toward the pond." I suggested as Val and I strolled through the little gardens. It was the same place we'd met and the same place we returned to often. I glanced over at Jag - for whatever reason he'd decided to tag along with Val today and I wondered if he knew what I was thinking.
"Cin - I love you so..." Val started
"Val, I wanted to...." I said at the exact same time. We both chuckled and he nodded toward me to proceed. I fumbled with the little ring box in my pocket and then got down on one knee. This whole thing felt awkward and clumsy.
"Will you marry me?" I asked, holding out the ring. It was a simple gold band but it caught the sunlight just like a diamond might.
Val was chuckling and I swear I heard Jag laughing in the background as well. "Oh Cin, I love you..." As I stood up, holding out the ring to him for an answer, he pulled out his own ring from his pocket. "But you sort of stole my line." he said opening the box for me to see a perfectly simple ring, set with a beautiful purple stone. "Will YOU marry ME?"
"Yes of course!" I shouted, throwing my arms around his neck.
It's possible the boys conspired to propose at the same time or it may have just been luck - but El came bounding in the house that night with the largest grin on her face. "I'm getting married!" she shouted up the stairs and again into the kitchen. She held out her hand to me and shook it so violently I was afraid the ring would fly off of it!
It seemed an obvious choice to have a double wedding after all that. Two sisters marrying two brothers - engaged on nearly the same day - it was fate or something like it.
Since none of us had really befriended anyone of importance in town, we planned a small private ceremony out at the planetarium. It was appropriate - we all felt - to get married at night seeing as we'd all met at night. So with the stars as our witnesses, we exchanged our vows and rings.
Val moved into the old house with me and Ella moved out to live with Jag. I was going to miss having my sister so close but Val made a fine substitute.
Long before I'd expressed my desire to wait for marriage and Val had accepted my feelings. He'd never once pushed me. So the eve of our wedding, Val carried me into the little run down house and even though I protested that I could surely walk up the stairs - he carried me all the way to the bed before setting me down.
I woke up starving a few hours later and realized I hadn't eaten since a small snack just before the wedding. I slipped carefully out from under Val's arms and down the stairs. I skipped the third step because it creaked loudly under the smallest pressure.
In the refrigerator, I found plenty of fruits and vegetables at my disposal but none of them sounded appealing at three in the morning. Finally I found a box of mac and cheese buried in a cabinet. I wondered if El had gotten it or had it been in the house before we'd even arrived. Being three in the morning, I didn't give the later too much thought.
I was almost done preparing my late night feast when I heard the telltale creak of that third stair. Val came into the kitchen, still rubbing sleep from his eyes. "Funny thing - I woke up to find my wife missing." he teased.
"Sorry, I was hungry..." I held out the wooden spoon for him to taste. He looked a little leery - like me, he generally preferred fresh vegetables or even meat - but he took a taste anyway and nodded approvingly. "Want me to make you a bowl? There's more than enough..."
So it happened that our first meal as husband and wife was Mac and Cheese made from a box that may or may not have been a dozen years old.
It didn't take long for us to grow accustomed to living together in wedded bliss. I confessed to Val that we were squatting in this house and he told me about the offer he and Jag had received when they'd arrived. A quick trip to the housing office and we were now the legal owners of this house under the understanding that we would fix it up in due time.
I set about expanding our little garden and Val painted dozens of pictures we could use to decorate the house in time. Occasionally neither of us would particularly love the outcome so he'd take it down to the consignment store to sell. He was building a small reputation with the owner, Blueberry Muffin. She was eager to sell his paintings and asked if he could paint a few more. As we had very little source of income - this was a wonderful arrangement.
All was going well in our little world until I came down with a horrible stomach bug. For days I laid in bed, trying to beat this thing but I always ended up back in the bathroom. "I think it's time you go to the doctor..." Val suggested as another round of nausea had me running.
"No!" I shouted back just before I retched over the toilet. I was stubborn on this particular fact - I'm not really sure why - I just didn't want to go to the doctor.
"Cin..." Val said, his voice edged with warning.